Warner Robins dog park to open on trial basis

chwright@macon.comSeptember 30, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Councilman Paul Shealy estimates one in four Wellston Walking Trail patrons are holding leashes, and he’s often one of them.

Shealy has spearheaded efforts to open the first dog park in the city, not just for his dog, Murphy, but for all the dog owners who have requested one. But if a trial period doesn’t go well, the dog park may not stay open.

“The city is going to monitor it for the first 60 to 90 days, and then we’ll kind of go from there,” Shealy said. “But I think it’s going to be just a great thing.”

The selected land for the dog park is a vacant, shady acre at Spruce Street, near the Wellston Walking Trail that runs from Kimberly Road to Corder Road. The land was deemed unusable for building after regulations were put in place when houses flooded in 1996, Shealy said.

“It’s nice and shady,” he said. “We’d like to have it a little bigger, but that’s such a perfect area.”

Because the land sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood, Shealy said, he promised to close the dog park if its usage causes any problems for residents.

“We don’t want to put anything there that will be a menace to those people in that area,” he said.

The park should be open in six to eight weeks, Shealy said. When it does, the councilman said he’s sure dog owners will help him prove it won’t be a problem. Owners have been forced to take their canine companions to sports fields and trails for playtime in Warner Robins.

“They’ve been really good about cleaning up after (the dogs),” Shealy said. “I think they’ll do this right.”

The Warner Robins dog park will be one of only a few in Middle Georgia. There is one in Forsyth and one in Macon.

“The dog owners have really wanted one (in the city) for quite a while,” Shealy said.

Shealy said he has used information from the existing Middle Georgia dog parks and the American Kennel Club to help ensure the park is within regulations and is amenable to the dogs and their owners.

Tim Mosely, who owns two Chihuahuas, said a dog park in Warner Robins could give his dogs a chance to get away from the apartment they share with his wife and newborn. He works 12-hour shifts and is usually the one who walks the dogs because his wife can’t hold a baby and walk two dogs at the same time.

“I say, ‘do it,’ ” Mosely said of getting a dog park. “The only thing I would say is it needs to be secure.”

A special security gate to keep ensure dogs don’t run out of the park is part of the plans, Shealy said. A 6-foot fence will be built around the dog park. Another fence will separate the park into an area for small dogs and an area for larger dogs. And there will be benches for dog owners.

There will be no fee to use the park. Posted rules will require all dogs to be attended, owners to clean up after their dogs, and all dogs to be on leashes when entering and exiting the facility.

Unruly dogs, female dogs “in heat” and puppies younger than four months old will be prohibited, according to letter Shealy sent to neighborhood residents.

Parking will be on Corder Road, where trail walkers currently park. A few handicap spaces may be added to Spruce Street if federal laws require them.

Shealy said several city departments will handle park unkeep and violations for the trial period.

“It’s going to be a concerted efforts by all of the departments,” Shealy said. “Ground maintenance will keep up with it for the first 90 days or so. Public works will check it out if mess complaints are there. If there are excessive cars, then the police department will go out there. Animal control will be called if there’s aggressive dogs.”

After the dog park has proven successful, it’s management and maintenance may be turned over to a local animal group, Shealy said.

“The animal groups have been calling, asking if they can” maintain the park, sponsor it or add equipment. Obstacle courses and toys won’t be installed for the trial period.

If all goes well, Shealy said the city will open more dog parks around Warner Robins.

“The big dogs really need an acre of their own,” Shealy said.

For now, though, Shealy said he looks forward to to taking his 5-year-old mostly-Pekingese, Murphy, for some play time.

“I’ve never been to a dog park,” Shealy said. “I’ve seen them, but I’ve never been.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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